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Ken Smith Chat - (NBD inside! Black Tiger 6)

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2 hours ago, ped said:

I've left the club - Scott Devine has my bass now! I still think the Smith sound is one of the best and they're some of the most identifiable base out there in terms of sound and looks. IMO the big hitters which are easily identifiable by sound alone are Precision, Jazz, Stingray and Smith. 

And Rickenbacker! 😉

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1 minute ago, Storky said:

And Rickenbacker! 😉

Ah yes I begrudgingly agree :)

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@ped nailed it on the head.  I saw your bass on one of his latest vids.  Would you get another? If so how many strings?  The KS basses are notorious for their  sound.

 

 

I remember back in 2010 buying my first smith for that distinctive sound.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, ped said:

IMO the big hitters which are easily identifiable by sound alone are Precision, Jazz, Stingray and Smith. 

Gotta put Wal in there as well for me. Stingray is close for my money but I reckon there is an appreciable enough difference to warrant a separate spot for Wal 😊

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@FLoydElgar Great clip! I'm not sure I'm going to be able to resist taking my Smith out on the road when we will all get back to gigging!

Here's one that Ped shared with me when I was trying to get my head around whether to scrape together coin to get my KS. He gets a bit flash from 3.50 onwards 😊

 

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3 hours ago, ped said:

It's mostly because it's defined by pickup position rather than brand, so for example a P bass sound can be a Fender or an Ibanez, doesn't really mater it's the position that gives that ballpark character. Smith have (nearly) always used such unique and specific pickup placement that it has a completely different character which really sets it apart. That's not to say some basses can't do a 'Smith Sound' but I guess there are only so many ways you can place pickups and Smith did that first, or most successfully.

Smith sound is defined by parallel wired coils in each humbucker and soft necks.   A complete opposite to the sound Status are known for which is zingy with shelved lows. 

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@Al Krow john king was a part of the many reasons I bought a ken smith 10 years ago 🤣🤣 so happy with my BT6 It is everything I wanted well worth the wait.  

 

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5 minutes ago, FLoydElgar said:

@Al Krow john king was a part of the many reasons I bought a ken smith 10 years ago 🤣🤣 so happy with my BT6 It is everything I wanted well worth the wait.  

That's a great result when that happens! Enjoy it, and don't move it on it this time.

I've managed to hold on to mine, and glad I did so, despite generous (and nearly tempting!) offers to take it off my hands! 😉😁

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You have a lovely bass and I really want/wanted it 😜

 

I dont have any urge whatsoever to move anything on - unlike my younger self 😜🤣

Lots of hours have happend in this lockdown!

The bass is killer!!

 

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@ped’s old KS getting its own YT video here, together with a BC shoutout...

 

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Posted (edited)

Great vid.

Slightly amused that Scot, who is an avowed passive bass player, said he's had more comments about the tone of this KS which he's playing (quite rightly!) in active mode than any other bass. In case you're wondering - KS basses are not meant to be played passively: the passive switch is there really only for emergency use in case the battery dies, which of course is a very nice to have.

@ped any twinges of seller's regret seeing your old bass being bigged-up in such glorious fashion?

Edited by Al Krow

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Nah I’m just glad he likes it. It was a great bass for sure and I’m happy to have had it for a while. Really glad he’s keeping his word on the puppets 😂

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Gonna lend him my Vigier at some point I think 🤔 

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5 hours ago, Al Krow said:

Great vid.

Slightly amused that Scot, who is an avowed passive bass player, said he's had more comments about the tone of this KS which he's playing (quite rightly!) in active mode than any other bass. In case you're wondering - KS basses are not meant to be played passively: the passive switch is there really only for emergency use in case the battery dies, which of course is a very nice to have.

@ped any twinges of seller's regret seeing your old bass being bigged-up in such glorious fashion?

I believe when the battery runs out you are meant to just sell it 😇
 

I wish people would stop banging the drums for Ken Smiths. It’s bad enough that he’s stopped making them, all the available ones will sell in minutes. 

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11 hours ago, OliverBlackman said:

I believe when the battery runs out you are meant to just sell it 😇
 

I wish people would stop banging the drums for Ken Smiths. It’s bad enough that he’s stopped making them, all the available ones will sell in minutes. 

You can still buy a new Ken Smith if you wish. Kevin Brubaker builds them now. Ken supplies the wood from his collection, Kev builds it and Ken does the final setup. If you check the Ken Smith YouTube channel you can see him doing the setup on some of the latest instruments to come from Kev's shop.

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39 minutes ago, Mastodon2 said:

You can still buy a new Ken Smith if you wish. Kevin Brubaker builds them now. Ken supplies the wood from his collection, Kev builds it and Ken does the final setup. If you check the Ken Smith YouTube channel you can see him doing the setup on some of the latest instruments to come from Kev's shop.

Should really be Kev Smith going forward then 😉

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Posted (edited)

But more seriously, it does beg the question "what is a boutique bass"? 

For me the most important part, by a country mile, is the intellectual property of the design in all its aspects - body, neck, head, woods used and how they are layered, electronics, & other components - I just love the quality and design of the brass nuts on the KS!

Where it is assembled must be a secondary point provided that the ability / quality of the craftsman matches up.

So yup, these new ones will still be fantastic Ken Smith basses.

Edited by Al Krow

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1 hour ago, Mastodon2 said:

You can still buy a new Ken Smith if you wish. Kevin Brubaker builds them now. Ken supplies the wood from his collection, Kev builds it and Ken does the final setup. If you check the Ken Smith YouTube channel you can see him doing the setup on some of the latest instruments to come from Kev's shop.

For me, in my head it is no longer a Ken Smith. I’m sure the end result is probably no different but Ken earned the reputation as a builder and its one of his basses I desire.

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16 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

But more seriously, it does beg the question "what is a boutique bass"? 

For me the most important part, by a country mile, is the intellectual property of the design in all its aspects - body, neck, head, electronics, & other components

Where it is assembled must be a secondary point provided that the ability / quality of the craftsman matches up.

So yup, these new ones will still be fantastic Ken Smith basses.

I’m sure they will be great basses, just not what I’m looking for. The price they command is huge, and therefore I also expect to pay for the reputation Ken/ his team has as a builder. 

I’m no longer at a point where basses are tools and the boutique basses offer something further than design for me.

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48 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

Should really be Kev Smith going forward then 😉

New models to include the clerks and silent bob.

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26 minutes ago, OliverBlackman said:

For me, in my head it is no longer a Ken Smith. I’m sure the end result is probably no different but Ken earned the reputation as a builder and its one of his basses I desire.

FWIW Ken has always outsourced much of the work, so all he's doing here is outsourcing to someone new who people recognise the name of.

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, OliverBlackman said:

For me, in my head it is no longer a Ken Smith. I’m sure the end result is probably no different but Ken earned the reputation as a builder and its one of his basses I desire.

You know that Ken has been more of a shop manager than a luthier for years though, right? Since the 80s he has been outsourcing parts of the build process. He had a team of guys working in his shop for years. From what I gather, Ken would do virtually all of the processes, but rarely, if ever, did he do a bass from start to finish. Wood selection, lay-up and gluing, carving, sanding, fretting, finishing, hardware installation, electronics installation etc, he did all of it and as I understand it, every single bass that came out of the shop went through his hands for set up and inspection. However, it's always been a team build, I don't think Ken has ever worked as a lone luthier doing everything completely by himself, like later-day Mike Pedulla for example.

I would guess an awful lot of other shops do this and keep it hushed up. Part of the allure of a boutique bass is the idea that the bass came from a special shop and it was crafted within those hallowed walls. Ken has always been open about his business practices. He's a smart guy, he got out of NYC when the price of doing business there was ramping up. 

I know he has used multiple guys to build his preamps and pickups over the years, carving has been outsourced and just the other day, I watched a video where he talked about outsourcing the finishing process to a piano restoration shop who had spare capacity in their spray booth and the skills in their business to do boutique bass levels of finishing quality. Still, everything had to meet his acceptance criteria and given the exacting quality of KS basses and how he comes across as a person, I don't think he'd accept anything less than perfect from any of his subcontractors.

Now that Ken has got Kev Brubaker doing anything, are these basses any less of a true "Ken Smith" product? I don't think so. I think there may well be a premium on older Smiths that came from his NY and Pennsylvania shops, but I wouldn't be averse to buying a new Smith. 

As per Al's post above, what is a boutique bass? Where does the value come from? Clearly, the cost of the finished instrument is considerably more than the value of the materials used to build it, the value comes from the expertise and skill of the designer and craftsmen. I agree with Al somewhat in that part of what makes a Smith a Smith, or an Alembic an Alembic etc, is the design. People covet the Smith sound, nothing else on the market sounds like it, so if you want that Smith sound, you need a Smith. However, I do think that part of the mystique and allure is that the basses have from these famous shops. If somebody copied the specs of a KS perfectly and built their own and it was indistinguishable from one of Ken's basses, it still wouldn't be a Smith. I don't feel that to be the case with Kev Brubaker though, as Kev was selected by Ken to perform the work.

If and when Ken retires fully and he no longer has the last pair of hands on a bass before delivery to the customer, he may well licence Kev to keep going with the KS basses. Maybe this will cause a dilemma for some with regards to whether or not it's a "true" KS, but personally I'd still be happy to buy one. People are happy to pay more than ever for new Wals for example, so clearly when you have a unique and desirable product, people will still buy it. Ken Smith will be remembered as one of the greats in boutique basses, that much is for sure. 

Edited by Mastodon2
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1 minute ago, ped said:

FWIW Ken has always outsourced much of the work, so all he's doing here is outsourcing to someone new who people recognise the name of.

It was my understanding that it was only the hardware that was outsourced but electronics and crafting was done by a small in house team. 
 

I’ve seen Brubaker basses around but they don’t seem as popular as other boutique basses which makes me wonder if it’s because they are just not as good. 

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